I know I think too much. Quite often I’m in two places at once, one of them being in my mind. But for a moment, I’m just here. Leaves crunch under my feet and ants march in single file along beside me. Trees stretch up into the sky on either side of the trail. The rays of sunlight which manage to break through the canopy sprinkle across my cheeks and tumble down my shoulders. Butterflies flit around me, teasing me in their game of tag. It’s almost my last day here. I’m both ready and not ready to leave.
I’ve been stung by wasps and fire ants. I’ve battled sweat bees and lost (a contact lens). I’ve consumed far too many carbohydrates. I’ve sweated out a waterfall. I’ve scratched my countless insect bites until they bleed. I miss wearing clothes that feel completely clean. I miss not sharing a bedroom with wandering spiders and bullet ants. I miss indoor toilets. I miss fresh vegetables.
I’ve seen so much Amazon Wildlife!
Despite this, I’ve had the most amazing experience here in the rainforest! I’ve seen so many wild animals, most of which I’d never seen before. Butterflies, rodents, frogs, snakes, squirrels, monkeys, macaws, hummingbirds, turtles, bats, caimans, capybara, and kinkajous are just some of the incredible wildlife that I encountered. I’ve learned so much about this ecosystem and met some great people along the way.
I’m proud of myself for going through with this adventure. Before leaving home, I think I was more worried than excited about living in the rainforest. I was sure that everything that could possibly go wrong was going to. Then when I arrived, and heard people’s horror stories of botflies and flesh-eating bacteria, I was convinced I would contract something.
After a slightly anxious first week or so, I had a word with myself. I told myself I couldn’t keep holding onto the fear of all the bad things that could happen to me. So I made sure to take the necessary precautions, like wearing insect repellent and regularly checking for tics, and I let go of the fear. If something was going to happen then it was going to happen; constantly worrying about it wasn’t going to help.
Towards the start of my time here, I had a little bit of an upset stomach one morning. I’ve known this to happen occasionally when I’m anxious, so I told myself it was nothing, as we were about to leave for an 8-hour hike, which I didn’t want to miss out on. You can already see where this is going, can’t you? All was well for most of the hike.
We spotted a few interesting things, like a hummingbird caught in a spiderweb, a kind of ground-nesting bird called a motmot and a thousand-year-old brazil nut tree. But on the way back, I could feel my stomach start to act up again. We weren’t far from the research station, so I wasn’t too worried. But moving off-trail through the dense forest takes longer than you think, and at one point I was really considering ducking into the bushes to relieve myself. For lack of a better way to put it, I was worried about the mess and how long I might be there, so I decided I could wait a bit longer. Eventually, we made it back, and I made it to a toilet. Phew.
I’ve Made Amazing Memories
A more uplifting memory was seeing something very fluffy leaping across the branches above us when we were out checking the butterfly traps. Fluffy monkeys here mean only one thing – saki monkeys! They’re very rare, so we were really excited to see them. Not even ten minutes later, we spotted another kind of rare monkey! This one was a dusky titi monkey. It was very cool to see two different kinds of rare monkeys in such a short space of time.
To bring things back to the more recent past, this week I was faced with a difficult decision. Are you familiar with the Greek story of the Iliad and the Odyssey? If I remember correctly, there’s a scenario in which the warriors in the boat are faced with navigating through a rocky passage in the final stages of their journey. If they steer the boat too close to one side of the rocks, the boat will get sucked in by large waves and smashed across the rocks. But if they steer too close to the other side, they risk being eaten by a seven-headed fire-breathing monster, or something along those lines.
This week, when we were off-trail conducting habitat classification research, we were faced with a somewhat similar scenario. To our left was a huincungo tree, its poisonous spikes poised to impale. To our right was a fire ant tree, the little demons running up and down, warming up for an attack. The vegetation was too dense to pass through elsewhere. Decision made, we carefully squeezed through. Mission successful!
My Research Project has been a Success!
Also this week, I concluded my butterfly research project. It was a really nice end to the sampling, catching the large shimmery blue butterfly Morpho melanaus, which we’d never caught before, on the last day of sampling. It left its wing dust on my hand, which looked just like glitter!
Something new this week was the opportunity to feed two of the non-releasable animals in the rescue centre. One of these was Jasper, a kinkajou who used to be a pet until he was rescued. We hung his food on vines in his enclosure, to reflect finding food in the wild. I was able to touch Jasper’s fur, which was very soft. The other animal was Margarita, a blind margay not much larger than a house cat. They’re not sure how she came to lose her sight. I scratched her with a brush, which she seemed to enjoy. I’d only seen kinkajous before in the distance on night walks, and had never seen a margay before, so it was really interesting to see these animals up close!
I’ve had a lot of fun here and I’m sad to go, but I feel ready to move on to the next stage of my travels now. I hope I’ll be back to the rainforest soon! If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend a visit to the Amazon Ecology and Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme, in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. I’ve had the most incredible adventure!